Incited by the decision to stop speaking as a child, Khemist’s career as journeyman lyricist began at a local playground, when he darted to retrieve a loose ball. That led to a fortuitous encounter with a man facing certain death.
“I didn’t even start talking in school until I went to high school. My whole middle school experience, I didn’t talk at all. I went to the park at Barrett playground. The ball bounced behind the rec and I went to retrieve it and saw this man just bleeding out –– lying there. Me and my man looked for a second, then some oldhead came and told us to move. He told us not to say anything so we never said nothing. We went back to playing ball. I still don’t know what happened to that guy. After that I didn’t talk in school from fifth to eighth grade.” – Khemist
Taking the instruction to keep quiet heart, Khemist applied the directive to his entire life. Robbed of his innocence in that split second, he traded conversation for self-reliance, an extensive vocabulary and razor sharp observational skill. In a death he never quite saw but cannot unsee –– in the subsequent deaths of friends lost to the streets and the American carceral system –– he found desensitization to violence and duty as a voice for the voiceless. Painstaking attention to detail in relating the lives of an oft discarded segment of society has enabled Khemist to humanize hardened individuals, illuminate the darkest corners of his city and validate the duality of his own existence as both a bruiser and a bard.
A former workshop leader for the Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement, Khemist cut his teeth writing poetry, listening to The Come Up Show with DJ Cosmic Kev, watching Def Poetry Jam and battle rap DVD’s. He cites Sonia Sanchez, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Black Ice, Mums Da Schemer, Sonny Patterson, Lauryn Hill, Ursula Rucker, Nas, Toni Morrison, Robert Browning, Nicki Giovanni and Octavia Butler as major influences.
Adding his two cents to the rap canon, Khemist first made waves with the Puzzle Pieces Mixtape. He followed with Death 2 Wack Rappers, hosted by Black Thought and the Khemist x Aktivemixtape, featuring DJ Aktive. Khemist’s spoken word project Lornda & Poems is a heartfelt ode to his grandmother Lornda Pack. Virginia radio fixture and Pusha T affiliate DJ Rick Geez joined Khemist on Scrap Metal. Written and recorded in one day, All In A Day’s Work dials up the lyrical showmanship of Philadelphia rap lore. Khemist later connected with Zaytona on Wolves. After countless hours logged in the studio, Khemist’s forthcoming Khemtrails EP and impending full-length studio album are the culmination of his previous releases.